If the pumps do not work, the water in the pool may boil, which will lead to the formation of radioactive steam, followed by the melting of the fuel assemblies, which will lead to a severe accident.—-Report from inside Chernobyl appearing in the NYTimes, 3/18/22
Some 440 atomic power reactors now heat this planet, 93 in the US. For a half-century opponents have warned that a madman like Putin could make them spew out enough radiation to burn our species off this planet. (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/04/science/ukraine-nuclear-power-plant.html )
We are headed precisely in that direction. The clock ticks down in real time.
Start at Chernobyl. Despite decades of industry denials that any commercial reactor could explode—-Soviet or otherwise—-Unit Four blew up on April 26, 1986. (For a gut sense of what happened, watch HBO’s five-part mini-series “Chernobyl.”)
The last of Chernobyl’s other three reactors ran through 2000. Unit Four’s blown core is still so hot the world community spent some $2 billion to cover it with a giant shield, aptly called a sarcophagus.
Chernobyl’s insanely radioactive graveyard still requires a full-time crew to run highly complex, fragile, dangerously deteriorated maintenance equipment. As we speak, they’re being forced (at gunpoint) to run impossible shifts while crumbling from hunger, fatigue and mental collapse. Without immediate rescue, another global catastrophe is inevitable.
Likewise Ukraine’s other fifteen reactors. A dozen are primitive Soviet relics, much bigger than Chernobyl. Their many decades of radioactive residues dwarf what spewed from Unit Four.
That 1986 explosion carpeted Ukraine, Belarus and much of Europe. Fallout came within ten days to the United States. (But the Soviets did seed clouds at the site so resultant rainfall would minimize the blowback into Moscow).
A definitive 2007 study put Chernobyl’s global death toll at 985,000, since grown vastly. With minimal effort Putin could easily blow all 15 Ukraine nukes, plus the Chernobyl dump, saturating the eco-sphere with radiation capable of ending all human life. Loss of coolant, loss of back-up power, cyber-failure, crew collapse and more could end us all. So could a small barrage of small shells at any reactor anywhere.
Thus nothing prevents Putin from threatening us all with absolute extinction without launching a single missile. The Peaceful Atom is the ultimate instrument of mass radioactive suicide.
The threat has been worsened by the likes of Bill Gates, now advocating Small Modular Reactors set to become the next generation of Putin Bombs. Gates wants spent on a Wyoming factory to churn out SMRs. They can never compete with renewables. But they’d sure be sitting ducks for the next Trumpian madman hell-bent on destroying us all.
Gates and his fellow fanatics could easily use the same resources to cheaply, safely, cleanly and quickly produce enough wind turbines to power the nation. No future Putin could ever threaten our survival by blowing up a wind farm.
This hideous war shows every moment it proceeds that today’s atomic advocates are now inexcusably complicit in humankind’s most lethal techno-failure. Nuclear power’s wastes, emissions, heat, high cost and vulnerability to incompetence, war and terror should have long ago erased it from any serious consideration of future construction or prolonged operation.
Whenever a new reactor opens, nearby cancer rates soar. Whenever an old one shuts, they plummet.
When Putin attacked Ukraine, Finland quickly cancelled a proposed reactor project with Russia. All other reactor builds worldwide must now stop. All operating reactors must be phased out as fast as possible.
Every moment Ukraine’s reactors operate brings the human race closer to extinction. Every day Chernobyl stews without massive intervention shortens our likely lifespan.
Is our species committed enough to living on this Earth to finally move on from this hideously catastrophic “Peaceful Atom”.
Harvey Wasserman co-wrote Killing Our Own: The Disaster of America’s Experience with Atomic Radiation. His People’s Spiral of US History is just out. He co-convenes the Grassroots Emergency Election Protection zoom Mondays at 5pm ET ( www.grassrootsep.org)
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.